This tradition was started after the Civil War. Legend says that an organized women’s group began decorating graves towards the end of the Civil War.
Memorial Day (in 1860 it was first called Decoration Day) was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
Years later (1966), President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the birthplace of Memorial Day to be Waterloo, NY. It was after WWI that Memorial Day changed from honoring just Civil War soldiers to anyone who died in any war.
But I wonder about those who died in service to our country? Whether they died in war or were victims of what I call “American Circumstances.”
American circumstances are situations that are unique to Americans and serve as a catalyst for positive change. Any event that led to the death of someone that eventually moved our country forward in a positive way would fit this category.
Have we forgotten these fallen heroes?
I’m thinking of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., which is different from the assassination of John F., and Robert Kennedy.
King’s murder single handedly heightened the awareness of the struggle and pricked the consciousness of our nation. It brought Blacks and Whites together and changed our civil liberties to include all people. The death of the Kennedys simply made our nation lose trust in its government. Conspiracy theorists had a field day with the inconsistent information distributed through the media by our government.
Also consider the shooting deaths of the people at Kent State and the shooting deaths at the Columbine school. Although both were extremely tragic, Kent State’s shooting raised the social consciousness of our nation and set us for the defense of the freedoms we love. Death to protesters was something that wasn’t supposed to happen in our country. These deaths were not in vain. The Columbine deaths sent America into serious panic mode. New rules were resurrected and penalties were put in place in a very weak attempt to deter this violence. Of course it didn’t work. Several other shootings followed and all for the same reason – bullying. Whether on a college campus or on a military base, American suffered at the hands of these shooters our society created.
Finally, let’s compare other plane crashes from the events of September 11. We tend to learn from every plane crash in history. Past plane crashes have contributed to many safety advances from the development of better engines to each plane having its own radar. September 11th gave us new rules, regulations and fear. We now jump through hoops to get on a plane and still to this day, terrorists are getting on planes with items other than Christmas presents.
The point here is this: It’s important for us to remember those often forgotten heroes whose deaths moved us forward. These deaths – whether accidental or purposed – contributed just as much in the development of our country as any war did. If wars gave America physical stamina, then these above-mentioned deaths gave us mental toughness. We wouldn’t be where we are as a country without them. So please remember all who have served and/or died for the betterment of all our lives.